China launches the first unit of its new space station | Science

China’s ambitious space program, which was almost in its infancy only two decades ago, has taken a formidable new step forward. Today, Thursday, it launched the first unit of its space station, which will operate in parallel with the International Space Station (ISS), as a result of cooperation between fifteen countries. According to Beijing’s plans, this year it will start hosting manned missions; Its construction will be completed by the end of 2022.

Launch of the Long March-5B missile carrying the unit TianheThe Celestial Harmony took place at 11:23 local time (05:23 Spanish Peninsula Time) from the Chinese space base Wenchang on the equatorial island of Hainan, according to the Xinhua News Agency. Tianhe It will orbit the Earth at an altitude of between 340 and 450 km. It is 16.6 meters long and 4.2 meters wide, and will be the control center and accommodation area for future manned missions to the space station.

Chinese Space Station (CSS for English abbreviation, or TiangongHeavenly Palace, as it is called in your country) will have two more units, Wentian s Mingtian The Celestial Quest and Heavenly Dream, respectively, are mounted on either side Tianhe. In total, the T-shaped construction will weigh about 90 tons and reach similar dimensions to the Russian MIR, although it will be four times smaller than the International Space Station. It is designed to accommodate teams of three astronauts during long stays, although up to six people may run into inside it during relay times between crews. Experts from the China Space Agency (CSNA) expect it can operate for up to 15 years.

In total, the T-shaped construction will weigh about 90 tons and reach dimensions similar to that of the Russian MIR

To complete the project, 10 more missions will be required, four this year and six to come, when the lab units will be launched. There will be four cargo missions, which will transport materials for CSS replenishment and adaptations on board Tianzhu-2 s Tianzhu 3. The first will be leaving next month.

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Four others – two this year, and two in 2022 – will be up and running. First, on the ship Shenzhou 12It will start in June and will remain in orbit for three months. The second, in Shenzhou-13, six months. It’s a huge logistical challenge for the Chinese space program: So far, the longest time Chinese astronauts have spent in space has been 33 days.

China – which is not participating in the International Space Station due to a veto by NASA, and whose country’s laws prohibit cooperation with Beijing – is planning to use its space station to test key technologies in its ambitions to explore outer space and counteract material in space. In particular, he wants to check the operation of the new “life support system”, technology that recycles water, oxygen and other essential materials to allow for survival without expensive – and huge – shipments of material from the ground. A critical technique for developing long-term manned missions or Create a base on the moonOne of the Chinese space scientists’ greatest dreams.

“In previous missions, we included loads of water and oxygen for the astronauts. But for three to six months, water and oxygen will fill the cargo tanks, leaving no room for other essential materials. So we installed a new life support system in the central unit to recycle urine and exhaled air and a second Carbon dioxide, “said Bai Linhu, chief CSS designer at the Chinese Academy of Space Technology.

According to Baye, “We will learn to assemble, operate and maintain a large spacecraft in orbit.” He added that the goal is to have a “space laboratory that can be used for long-term residence for astronauts, as well as for ambitious experiments.”

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China asserts that CSS was not built to compete with the International Space Station, which is made by 15 countries, and stressed that it is open to international cooperation in its future space station, and has already chosen, in cooperation with the United Nations, experiments carried out by foreign researchers. To carry them out in those facilities.

Chief designer of China’s manned space exploration program, Zhou Jianping, said Xinhua: “We have to make sure that every launch is reliable and that the spacecraft is operated in orbit without risk and completely safely. Every mission is a test of our ability to organize, manage, technology and support.”

Since sending its first astronaut into space in 2003, Beijing has invested billions of euros in its space program. This program, through which China aspires to compete with the NASA program in another area of ​​rivalry between the two great world powers, has already made important progress in the past two decades.

In 2019, set a global milestone by reaching the far side of the Moon and starting to explore it; Last year, your investigation Chang’e-5 Soil samples reconstituted. After sending a probe to Mars orbit earlier this year, it plans in the coming weeks to deposit a roving robot on the surface of the Red Planet.

In addition, it plans to launch other research expeditions for asteroids; By 2029, you want to reach the orbit of Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system. In March, it signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Russian Space Agency to plan a future joint station on the moon, which experts hope to operate in about ten years.

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After the launch on Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory message calling for “self-sufficiency and innovation to win the victory of building the space station, and to contribute to building a modern socialism. Country.”

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Aileen Morales

"Beer nerd. Food fanatic. Alcohol scholar. Tv practitioner. Writer. Troublemaker. Falls down a lot."

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